Today, more than half of all mobile phones in use are camera phones. With the constant evolution of small digital camera sensors, they have become very cheap while at the same time being convenient and portable. However, there are limits. They are not better than a good camera yet, though many of them can do the job pretty well. A few years ago, the best you could get with an ordinary camera phone was photos in VGA resolution, but at present phones are coming with more and more Megapixels and quality with average prices, making them a great alternative to cameras in some situations.
Mobile phones are constantly carried by almost everybody nowadays. This allows camera phones for capturing moments at any time, moments in which one wouldnt be expecting something to happen and wouldnt normally be carrying a camera. Unexpected things like crimes happening in progress, celebrities passing by or even natural events like earthquakes or floods are now a lot more susceptible to being registered by any civilian nearby. Events like those are not exclusive of professionals anymore and lets not forget that mobile phones can also make videos. Its becoming common to see footage produced with a phone being broadcast worldwide, indicating that the common citizen has become the journalist. We can say with no shadow of doubt that there will always be a person at the right place and at the right time caring a phone to register every unusual event that can possibly happen.
Mobile communication also allows for immediate transmission of content wirelessly, which means that it is now easy to share everything with your friends or even with the world, via web, unlike a photo taken by a digital camera that only stores images locally for later transfer.
Not everything can be good, of course. Invasion of privacy and copyright infringement have became more common. A user may pretend to be simply talking on the phone or browsing the Internet, drawing no suspicion, and be able to photograph a person or place illegally or against that person's wishes. All camera phones sold in South Korea and Japan must make a clearly audible sound whenever a picture is taken. These laws are intended to reduce the number of up-skirt photos taken over there. Camera phones have also been used to discreetly take photographs in museums, performance halls, and other places where photography is prohibited. However, as sharing can be instantaneous, even if the action is discovered, it is too late, as the image is already out of reach, being shared with the world on the Internet like mentioned above.
Some tips to shoot with your phone
I have been shooting a lot with my phone, and hearing from everybody out there that the more you shoot, the better you get, I think I have developed abilities in that kind of photography with my experience. That being said, Ill try to give you a few tips on cell phone photography and show a few shots Ive taken with mine. After all, you dont want to lose that unique moment that has shown up in the exact moment you didnt have your camera around. Luckily, you had your phone in your pocket! Keep in mind that the settings and presets can be different from phone to phone. Common problems with photos taken by phones are noise, focus and muddy colors. Having that in mind, try to take the photos avoiding them in the first place!
The first and most important thing is to always set the resolution and quality on the highest level. This not only applies to phones but to every camera, always. Memory is cheap, so it is better to spend a little money on a memory card and have photos in the best quality and resolution your device can provide rather than have poor quality photos due to the lack of memory at the time.
Phone cameras dont have the quality of a good digital camera, so you have to keep in mind that bad light affects the photos taken with them even more. We all know that bad light is not good for any photo, but that applies even more to phone cameras. They usually lack flash or their flash isn't satisfactory, so good light equals good photos and bad light equals bad photos generally. Dont expect quality on photos taken at night. The best you can do is try to take photos very close to the subject (maximum of 2 meters away) and use the flash. You can also work with the lack of quality of your phone, making it visually pleasing, applying some grain or other effects to lower the quality even more on purpose and make it more artistic.
Converting the photos to black and white can also be a good way to overcome the lack of quality of the phone and especially the noise, when it is not desired. High contrast black and white photos are a nice way to solve the noise problem.
Getting close is also recommended for pictures with good light, which means it is always recommended. The lack of detail caused by the small quality of the sensors can be annoying, backgrounds usually look bad because of that, but if you get close to your subject the results tend to be a lot better. Aiming for the details is best; after all you will surely prefer a good photo of a detail rather than a bad photo taken far away from your subject. Try to fill the frame with it!
Phone cameras usually have trouble with the automatic white balance at night or with artificial light. If your phone has the option to change the white balance manually, try to play with it to see which setting fits best. Sometimes just by playing with the white balance you can find a great photo where there wasnt any. For example, setting the white balance to sunny in a concert can make the colored lights pop out of the pic!
There are some filters in some phone cameras that can give some nice and unusual effects on the pictures. Negative, black and white, sepia, contrast and vivid colors are fun to use and can produce great photos. This last one in particular, the vivid color filter (remember that those can vary according to the phone you are using) is my favorite, it can bring out and give life to the colors that looked previously dead due to the lack of quality of the camera.
Never, I mean never ever use the digital zoom of your phone. All phone cameras have a digital zoom, but unlike the optical zoom found in most of the ordinary cameras, the digital zoom is detrimental to image quality and there is no gain on quality at all. That means that if you just dont zoom at the time youre taking the pic and crop it afterwards on the computer youll get better results, but remember, that is just if you cant come closer to your subject as I said before.
Post-production is really important, and even more when talking about photos taken by a phone. Colors, sharpness and contrast can be adjusted on the computer like in any other photo, but pictures taken by phone cameras, which usually lack quality, can get a lot better after a good editing. There is no need to do major things, simple adjustments can give life to a picture that you wouldnt even look at before.
Here are some other examples of pictures that I have taken with my phone. I used to have a 3.2 MP Nokia N73 phone, most of the pictures shown on this article were taken with it, but there are also some that were taken with my new 5 MP Nokia N95 8Gb phone. I recommend them both.
Always remember: the best camera is the one you have at hand. Dont underestimate it. And the best tools are your eyes and whats behind them: your brain. Thanks for reading!
Another article written by me:
Simple Photography Tips